Do I need insurance to ship a car? | Citizenshipper

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 16, 2024

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When arranging a vehicle shipment, insurance is an important yet often overlooked subject. Haulers, for one, don’t normally ask the customers for their insurance info. And on the other hand, car owners often assume that the haulers have things covered. 

But people who think ahead might ask themselves, what exactly does my insurance cover when the car is being shipped? Do I need insurance to ship a car? What kind of insurance should my shipping company have? 

We’ll try to answer these questions and more, providing some insight into how auto insurance applies to vehicle transportation.

The basics of insurance coverage

In the United States, auto insurance is mandatory in almost every jurisdiction. (Shoutout to those New Hampshire and Virginia drivers, though!) The amount of coverage required by law varies from state to state. Most policies cover bodily injury or property damage liabilities, in addition to costs associated with theft, repairs, or medical expenses.

And yet, few insurance policies cover the damages caused in shipping. You’ll need to check with your insurance provider to see just how the vehicle is protected during transport. Should an accident occur, odds are you’ll be relying on the shipping company’s insurance coverage instead.

But that’s where things get tricky. DOT-registered transporters are required by law to have some form of insurance, true. But the specifics of their coverage can sometimes be murky. Here’s a quick overview of the steps you can take to stay on top of things.

Ask your hauler for proof of insurance

A shipping company should volunteer information on its insurance coverage to customers. In case they fail to do so, be sure to ask for proof of insurance. Any prevarication in this regard should be seen as a major red flag.

Thoroughly review the insurance policy that your transporter provides. If anything seems unclear, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Only book the transporter once you’re confident in your understanding of their policy.

Here are a few of the questions that your analysis should try to answer:

  • What types of damages does the insurance policy cover?
  • How high are the insurance policy’s deductibles?
  • Are there any exclusionary conditions included in the policy?
  • Are there any specialty protections included in the policy?
  • Would you need to purchase supplemental insurance coverage?

This last item is something that your insurance company should be able to help you out with.

Consult your regular car insurance provider

Depending on the insurance policy you already have for the vehicle, there might be some room to maneuver here. Your insurance might already cover some of the damages sustained in transport. (It almost certainly does not cover them all.) There could be overlap with what the hauler’s insurance covers. To get through these minutiae, ask your insurance provider for assistance.

Once you work out what the blind spots are in your own and the hauler’s coverage combined, you might want to consider dealing with those. Most insurance providers will be able to offer you supplemental coverage, short-term packages covering specific issues that might occur during transport.

The bulk of the financial burden, of course, should still be on your shipping company. Still, purchasing this extra coverage may grant you some much-needed peace of mind

Last-minute check-up

The insurance coverage of your car is contingent upon the documentation detailing the vehicle’s condition. Before the hauler picks it up, you should inspect your car thoroughly, taking photos and documenting its condition. Be sure to include this data in the bill of lading that you and the hauler will sign.

(At this point, it’s also recommended to remove any cargo from the vehicle — boxes in the trunk and such. Very rarely does auto insurance cover the theft of these extraneous items.)

Upon delivery, repeat the inspection and take note of any changes. If the vehicle has sustained damage in shipping, make note of this and amend the bill of lading. That way, it should be easy to file an insurance claim and get all due compensation.

Final words

So if you’ve been asking yourself “do I need insurance to ship a car”, the answer is “technically no”. The vehicle transporter that you’ve booked should have you covered there. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look into what exactly they’re covering!

It can seem difficult at first to navigate the finer points of two different insurance policies (yours and the transporter’s). Still, a little patience and perseverance will go a long way in that regard. You’ll rest more easily knowing that your vehicle is sufficiently covered.

Stay on your toes, stay safe, and happy shipping!

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